Paganism To A Bouquet Of Roses

When the second week of February comes around and the world becomes infested with couples holding hands and the prices of red roses jack up, my eyes couldn’t roll any harder. But when you’re scrambling to find a cheap teddy bear at CVS for your S.O., you might want to reconsider what this seemingly 21st Century, retail dictated holiday is; Valentine’s Day.

We associate this holiday with heart-shaped candy and candle-lit dinners, but we only have Shakespeare’s romanticized works to thank for this mood shift. Originally, Valentine’s Day was created to honor two martyrs named Valentinus who were killed for their faith on February 14th.

This created St. Valentine’s Day in the Catholic Church. But before these two deaths, in the Roman Empire, the festival and feast of Lupercalia were “celebrated” from February 13th to 15th. This holiday, lasting three days, made many animal sacrifices and literally hit women, thinking that would make them fertile. According to NPR, there was also the work of matchmaking during the feast of Lupercalia. The couples would have to stay together throughout the festival in hopes they would end up together for life. Luckily, this gory, pagan feast was replaced and reduced by the feast day of St. Valentines on February 14th by Pope Gelasius I (Seipel).  

As mentioned before, we have Shakespeare to give our thanks to because of his poetic works. As these works were gaining popularity throughout Europe, so was the holiday. There were even handmade paper cards made. You’re welcome, Hallmark. From the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, these love cards became mass produced. And here we are today, daydreaming about your crush, praying your boyfriend doesn’t get you sunflowers because you’re allergic to them or becoming sick at thought of the colors red and pink.

So, next time your boyfriend is about to drain his bank account on dinner for you and him, be thankful for him and for the century you’re born in.